stuff that’s happened since the last time I posted

Long time no blog, I know.  Could trot out the reasons; offline for a while, working my tail off for a while, getting a pal married for a while (whoo, it was a good time!), depressed for a while.  Feeling like nothing was happening that I was interested in writing about, much less that anyone would be interested in reading, a long while.

But hey, life goes on, the head comes up, and things start looking OK again.  So what’s happened since last we met on the Interwebs?

The brown dog Chester turned 13.  He is slowing down, but otherwise doing well.  We had him at the vet today and he will be getting more arthritis meds, which should make him happier and more comfortable.  Good boy, Chet!

I’ve been indulging my coelacanth obsession: designed and printed a new T-shirt, silk screened a coelacanth print, and made a coelacanth mini.  Also painted a huge coelacanth banner on a bedsheet which was very effective at the Motor City Con.  I feel like an arteest, oh yes I do.

After months of seeing absolutely no cars of any interest at all, I’ve collected tons of new and interesting sightings:

The new Dodge Challenger, a black one.  Taller and chunkier than expected, but very cool (in a musclecar kind of way) and very fast.  Looks less like the original in person.

A white Bentley Flying Spur with a white mesh grille.

A Ford GT, my first one ever.  Red with a white stripe.

An absolutely pristine first generation Datsun 240 Z, maroon over black vinyl.  Lovely car.

A 1990s Lotus Esprit, fly yellow.  Booming GT car on I-94 early on a Friday morning. Nice!

Smart cars, Smart cars, Smart cars.  Fourtwos all over the place, including several running at speed in heavy traffic on the freeway.  They look terribly, terribly funny mixed in with the rest of the fleet.  What goofy little cars, but they always make me smile.  Silver frames with red panels and black frames with silver panels are both frequently seen, but the overwhelming popular favorite color scheme seems to be a black frame and yellow panels.

And I learned that “patrijpoort” is the Dutch word for both a skylight and a porthole.

What a world.  More to come.



Published in: on May 23, 2008 at 7:41 am  Comments (1)  
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Welcome back to my blog, and to the introduction my new favorite word. 

“Belphegor” is a classic demon name, possibly based on the name of a Moabite god, Baal-Peor.  But don’t worry, there’s no demonology angle here.  The name seems to appeal to creative types across various cultures, and, of most interest here, to French pop culture creators, starting with the pulp writer Arthur Bernède  who in 1927 gave the name to a character he created to rival the success of the Phantom of the Opera and other classic French pulp characters. 

There were several Belphegor pulp novels, followed by silent and talkie films, and even some comics. And, most important to me, there was a black and white TV miniseries in 1965 that apparently was insanely popular, and which has become a long term cult classic. (At least to people who have a Region 3 DVD player and speak French– there doesn’t seem to be a subtitled version.)

(This site is a good place to start reading about Belphegor’s history in French pop culture: ) 

So Belphegor was very much on the minds of the people of France, when Citroen introduced their new line of trucks.  (You knew there had to be a car in here somewhere.)  In the Citroen catalog it was simply “Citroen 350”, but people immediately started calling it “Belphegor” after the ghostly TV character.

Imagine how I felt on Saturday afternoon, when I walked into a long, dark, half lit garage, and saw this:

It’s one of these: 

in rough-but-more or less complete condition, undoubtably waiting to be restored.  And it is absolutely the coolest, funkiest truck I had ever seen, and joins the IH Travellall and the Hudson Big Boy as “trucks I would buy if I could even though I cannot drive a stick shift”.   But more than that, it spoke to me artistically.  When I saw its silhouette from a distance, before I knew what it was, I knew it belonged in Kekionga.  And now there is a story where there was only a blank line and a question mark before, in the overall series plan.  Bud is going to acquire a mysterious Belphegor, and it’s going to be … haunted.

I’ve pretty much decided to make mine a flatbed like the one I saw, or this one from Danish TV: 

Or “Gaston” belonging to a man named Adam in Los Angeles, the lucky pup:

I’m very excited about this new character and its story, which is going to be quite long and as spooky as I can make it.

Before I go off and do more research,  I have to give a monster shout out to the owners of the wonderful Belphegor, the Lane Auto Museum in Nashville.  If you like cars at all, you owe it to yourself to go to this link and click on “our cars”.  I’d never seen half the cars there in the metal, only in photographs, and there were things in their collection I never even knew existed.  Only the one pic of the Belphegor, I’m sorry to say, (boo!), but you can’t really blame them.  There are many, many vehicles on display and even more in storage, and to put multiple views of each on a website would take up more bandwidth than any not for profit could afford.

Enjoy what they can afford to share, and go there if you can.  I spent at least 4 hours staring, shooting and taking notes, and could easily have doubled that and not seen enough.  The building (a wonderful old mid-20th Century bread factory)  is well lit; the collection is barrier free so it’s a dream to photograph, and if you go around the back you can stand in the weeds and peek through the windows and see a storage area I would pay big bucks to tour. (Citroen DS 21 painted in an allover Stars and Stripes motif, anyone?  2CV rally car with 4 eyes? Something I’m pretty sure was a Goggomobile?) 

Anyway, wonderful old cars, and especially gorgeous French trucks with good backstories, make for a great weekend.  Long live Belphegor!


Bonus track:

Two Three other interesting things that are called “Belphegor”:

1) an Austrian death metal band.  Their latest album is called “Bondage Goat Zombie”.  They seem to be quite popular, with lots of reviews and fansites, but I do not think they are quite my sort of thing.

2) A scholarly journal of popular literature and media culture, published by Dalhousie University:  This is my sort of thing, and it looks very interesting– there have been two issues entirely about comics.  I will be reading more of this when I have some spare time.

3) The Mielec M-15 “Belphegor” jet agricultural aircraft, based (though you have to squint a bit) on the classic Antonov An-2 cabin biplane.  Wikipedia claims the aircraft earned the nickname by its “strange looks and noisy engine”.  I can’t comment on the engine noise, but twin boom jet biplanes with a single engine mounted in a strut above the crew cabin are not exactly thick in the ground, so its looks must qualify, at the very least, as unusual. 

The Wikipedia notes that the nickname surfaced after the aircraft was shown at the Paris Air Show, so it’s possible it’s a French nickname and related to that of the “camion Belphegor”. 

M-15 Belphegor fun fact: the aircraft uses the same engine as the Yak-40 mini-trijet , which many consider to be the first “regional jet”.

Published in: on April 9, 2008 at 3:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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many, many Malibus, and other stuff.

I ‘ve wondered for a while just what was going on with the new Chevy Malibu.  “Chevy Malibu” and “interesting car” are not thoughts that usually cross paths in the mind of even the most dedicated car person.  (I will admit to having vaguely fond memories of a ’75 ‘Bu, but those are personal in nature, if you know what I mean.)

But this new Malibu is somewhat different.  It’s either General Motors’ last chance or the first promising sprout of a new crop of modern American cars that will mark that company’s revival, depending on what you read and your own opinions.  The buff books and general media seem to be in agreement that it’s at least a fair competitor to Camry and Accord, and that’s a bare minimum standard that GM hasn’t seemed able to meet in a long, long time.

This is going to be Chevy’s new bread and butter car; the car Americans whove gotten used to the style, ergonomics, amenities and sturdy reliability of the classic Japanese midsize sedan will actually buy in large numbers.  The time may be right for it.  It’s true that the old time domestic loyalists (the people who would never, ever drive a Japanese car) are dying out or have shed their loyalty over the intervening years, but at the same time the Japanese loyalists, disturbed by the constantly increasing size, complexity and price of the Hondas and Toyotas and the growing evidence of dents in the Japanese quality armor, are starting to turn to alternatives.  Maybe the new Malibu doesn’t have to take everything from the big two.  Maybe being directly competative to Hyundai’s Sonata will be enough.  It certainly would be a great place to start.

The Malibu is a distinctive looking car.  Smooth and high waisted, with a strong, blunt , shape, it looks much bigger than it is.  It’s not quite like anything else on the road, and it certainly doesn’t look very Japanese, except in overall proportions of wheelbase to overhangs.  The basic platform is comes from Europe, where it underlies the midsize Opel, and it’s shared with the Saturn Aura (which is an ugly car that needs a powerful dechroming ASAP) so I suppose it’s a European look.  But that doesn’t seem right either. 

Perhaps this is a new American look, which is something we’ve needed for a long, long time.  If so, it’s kind of a nifty one, strong and plain and tough.  I can see more cars in this style, particularly a revival of the station wagon. 

More new ‘Bu pics.  The two tone interior of the LTZ models is awesome.

But it looks more distinctive in person than it does in photographs, with the dark colors, particularly the dark blue, giving the most dramatic effect.

I’ve been watching for this car for months.  Then its debut date came.  I didn’t see one.  Drove by the Chevy dealer.  Didn’t see one. (Admittedly didn’t go in to see if there was one in the showroom, not really being in the mood for the hard sell.) One week passed, then two, then three.  Saw other new cars debuting about the same time.  No Malibus.  WTF?  Does everyone hate them 

Then one, with a temporary plate, in traffic.  Then, a few days later, another in the parking lot at the grocery store.  Then two in one weekend. Then the local dealer sets one up at the flea market, and I got to sit in it …nice.  Maybe there isn’t one at the dealership because people are buying them and immediately going on long vacations? 

Then, over the last two weeks, they’ve  seemed to explode: blunt nosed, bluff flanked Chevies everywhere you looked like a pod of pilot whales. (That’s what they look like!) Now, they are literally everywhere in town.  I saw four on one trip on Saturday.  It’s the oddest debut into the fleet that I’ve seen for a long time.


Anyway, it’s the end of the month and the best thing I can say for it is I got through it with no major damage.  Better next time, I hope.


Published in: on April 1, 2008 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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Easter Eggs

Drove across the state over the weekend to see Mr. Shark’s family.  It’s mostly a country drive, rural US highway followed by state highway, and the good sightings tend toward fauna rather than cars.

In the case of this weekend, it was fowl all the way: saw many, many redtailed hawks, two red shouldered hawks, one of the little streaky ones that’s either a Cooper or a sharpshin, and five kestrels. 

There were a lot of buzzards (the Midwestern name for turkey vultures, if you speak a different dialect) flying around, as there always are this time of year.  My guess is that they are hunting for carcasses exposed by the melting snow cover, which is disgusting, but seems to suit them very well.  We were lucky enough to see one close up, as he or she was tearing up the remains of a skunk on the edge of a corn field.  It was good to see a buzzards ugly face again; they are some of my favorite birds.

And then to cap it off, at the edge of a field, on Sunday afternoon: wild turkeys, a big gobbler and one, possibly two hens.  What a trip.

So there were good birds, which is lucky but not surprising.  The big surprise was a car.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Smart.  In the parking lot of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a brand new, temporary plated, Smart Fourtwo.  The replaceable body panels were a bright, beaten egg yellow and the fixed frame was shiny black.  This is a great color combination, and the result looks quite unlike any photographs, most of which seem to feature the car with a silver frame and red, blue or black panels.    Not that any Smart is a tough spot– it is completely unlike any other car licensed in the US or Europes, although there are some Japanese home market only cars that have similar configurations.  This little two place city car looks mighty strange among Indiana’s Easter morning fleet of pickups, utes, and American sedans, where a Lexus or Mitsubishi is a bit of an odd bird.  I have no idea of the heartland will take to this car, but it was quite the little Easter egg.

New Smart Fourtwo (first sighting of an innovative and signficant new car, plus one for the paint scheme), nine points.  There’s no way to predict the eventual point value of a Smart, but my guess will be it will settle at about six or seven.


Published in: on March 25, 2008 at 4:36 am  Comments (2)  
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